United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division
ERIK D. NORDHAUSEN, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
L. Litkovitz, United States Magistrate Judge
Erik D. Nordhausen, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying his application for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). This matter
is before the Court on plaintiffs statement of errors (Doc.
9), the Commissioner's response in opposition (Doc. 10),
and plaintiffs reply memorandum. (Doc. 11).
filed his application for DIB on July 30, 2015, alleging
disability since January 1, 2014 due to delusions, obesity,
excessive tiredness and sleepiness, short attention span and
sustained focus difficulties, diabetic symptoms,
hypertension, stiffness in his back and arm muscles, sleep
apnea, gastric reflux, and difficulty with social
interactions. The application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Plaintiff, through counsel, requested and
was granted a de novo hearing before administrative
law judge ("ALJ") Thuy-Anh T. Nguyen. Plaintiff and
a vocational expert ("VE") appeared and testified
at the ALJ hearing on December 14, 2017. On May 23, 2018, the
ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiffs DIB application.
Plaintiffs request for review by the Appeals Council was
denied, making the decision of ALJ Nguyen the final decision
of the Commissioner.
Legal Framework for Disability Determinations
qualify for disability benefits, a claimant must suffer from
a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The impairment must
render the claimant unable to engage in the work previously
performed or in any other substantial gainful employment that
exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2).
promulgated by the Commissioner establish a five-step
sequential evaluation process for disability determinations:
1) If the claimant is doing substantial gainful activity, the
claimant is not disabled.
2) If the claimant does not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment - i.e.,
an impairment that significantly limits his or her physical
or mental ability to do basic work activities - the claimant
is not disabled.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairments) that meets or
equals one of the listings in Appendix 1 to Subpart P of the
regulations and meets the duration requirement, the claimant
4) If the claimant's impairment does not prevent him or
her from doing his or her past relevant work, the claimant is
5) If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work, the
claimant is not disabled. If the claimant cannot make an
adjustment to other work, the claimant is disabled.
Robbers v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, 582 F.3d 647, 652
(6th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v), 404.1520(b)-(g)). The claimant has the
burden of proof at the first four steps of the sequential
evaluation process. Id.; Wilson v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 378 F.3d 541, 548 (6th
Cir. 2004). Once the claimant establishes a prima facie case
by showing an inability to perform the relevant previous
employment, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show
that the claimant can perform other substantial gainful
employment and that such employment exists in the national
economy. Rubbers, 582 F.3d at 652; Harmon v.
Apfel, 168 F.3d 289, 291 (6th Cir. 1999).
The Administrative Law Judge's Findings
applied the sequential evaluation process and made the
following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
1. The [plaintiff] meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2020.
2. The [plaintiff] has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since January 1, 2014, the alleged onset date (20
CFR 404.1571, et seq.).
3. The [plaintiff] has the following severe impairments:
schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, degenerative changes
of the lumbar spine, obesity, diabetes mellitus, and
metabolic syndrome (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. The [plaintiff] does not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
[ALJ] finds that the [plaintiff] has the residual functional
capacity [("RFC")] to perform medium work as
defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) except occasional balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and climbing of
ramps and stairs, and never climbing of ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. The [plaintiff] is capable of simple, routine
tasks that do not require fast paced or high production
standards. He can occasionally interact with supervisors and
coworkers but cannot interact with the general public. He is
limited to low stress jobs, defined as those with occasional
decision-making and occasional changes in the work setting,
with changes explained in advance. He will be off-task 5-10%
of the workday.
6. The [plaintiff] is unable to perform any past relevant
work (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The [plaintiff] was born [in]. .. 1973 and was 40 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563).
8. The [plaintiff] has at least a high school education and
is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the [plaintiff] is "not disabled," whether or
not the [plaintiff] has transferable job skills (See SSR
82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix II).
10. Considering the [plaintiff]'s age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the [plaintiff] can perform (20 CFR 404.1569 and
11. The [plaintiff] has not been under a disability, as
defined in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2014,
through the date of ...